“I hope you weren’t planning on taking any drug tests soon, because you sure as hell won’t pass!”
On Thursday, July 16th, I was able to see Slightly Stoopid with the Dirty Heads play at the Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore, Maryland. Continuing my efforts towards catching big local shows, something that was on a tiny bit of a break, I was very excited to see my first, real, big venue surf reggae show, and it paid off. Playing at the Pier Six Pavilion across the Inner Harbor from the Aquarium, I don’t think there could be any better venues for a show like this, save a California beach that each one of these groups is all too familiar with.
Before I physically got into the concert, I was notified by the beneficiary who was able to get me the tickets that I should be on the lookout for a very awesome energy. Slightly Stoopid and the Dirty Heads, despite the slightly similar geographic influence and paths to stardom, have never toured together. This was the first time that most, if not everyone in the area would have been able to see both bands playing together on the same bill. It was apparent from my first steps in that the energy my boss spoke about was already rising. One could even argue that the energy was… high.
The first thing I noticed getting in was how pretty the physical backdrop of the concert was. A beautiful day on the Inner Harbor set the scene for youthful festivity. It seemed hard to believe that this same city, beaming in the summer sun, was tearing itself apart at the seams and burning itself to the ground only a few months ago. Everything felt safe. Security guards joined in with the elevated fun that swept over the crowd like a haze. The overwhelming presence of youth at this concert, with the majority of audience members looking like they be anywhere from high school to college aged, was another very different energy that I had never felt before on such a wide scale.
While the absence of locally brewed National Bohemian was apparent and missed, the setup for the night was fine. Crowds on the lawn and in the seated areas with two easy access points made the trip in a walk in the park, all the while being able to look out and enjoy your time on the water.
Kicking the night off was The Expendables, based out of Santa Cruz, California. Considered a reggae rock band, I was able to hear more influences than just basic reggae and rock. Noted, it was classic surf reggae, but the heavier based distortion coming through the guitars and out the amplifiers made for a very special tone that accompanied the rhythmic beats. While too much being tied together could give anyone a headache, The Expendables were able to put it together. Playing hits such as “Down Down Down”, “Sacrifice”, and “Bowl for Two”, a definite crowd favorite, The Expendables were able to kick off the night with high energy. Almost too high. For the time of day with the sun shining down, pretty much ruining any chance at stage lighting, this band was seriously ready to amp it up. And I personally do not think that the crowd was ready be so amped up quite that much.
Combining the efforts of two guitars, a bass, and drum kit, this high octane set was not willing to let any sound go unnoticed, from what seemed to be heavy metal shredding to an island jam. This kind of “island shredding” was technically very cool. But, the surrounding atmosphere may not have been the best for it. If you are into party rock, I would highly advise to check out some of their work around the internet. But this group definitely seemed much more primed to play a darker, closer to night time, arena, or even big bar gig. While their music was not bad at all, I think that some liberties could have been taken by the group to play more in the mood. I am not defending having different sounding opening acts by any means. For example, without Van Halen completely blowing Black Sabbath off the stage every night they opened for them back in the late 70’s, would they have been so big, so quickly? While that discussion may be for another article, I definitely think that keeping up with the reggae hits that The Expendables did so well to begin with, as well as being able to keep the crowd going with, would have made for an even better opening than the one they had.
The second group of the night was none other than The Dirty Heads. Another reggae – rock fusion band coming from Huntington Beach, with the current line up being active members since 2003, there is not much to say other than these guys absolutely killed it. With the sun beginning to set to allow the light show to kick in as well as even more people filling in to begin the festivities, this was definitely a notable point in the night in which the music matched the mood masterfully. Playing songs like “Lay Me Down” and my new personal favorite for the night, “Medusa”, The Dirty Heads were able to pump some amazing jams and blow the collective minds of the audience. With a great crowd energy, I can safely say that I will be catching these guys if they come around again. Big venue, small venue, they put on a great show.
At this point in time, I feel it is only appropriate to talk about one of the most memorable observations I was able to take away from this specific show.
I have never seen so much weed being smoked in one place, at one time, as I did that night.
There must have been a piece of something for every four or five people that were in attendance, all of which had to have been snuck in. And that absolutely did not go unnoticed by the performers on stage. It’s like the bands were amping all of the herbal based debauchery up, making people go even crazier than they would already. I think I should probably be pleading the fifth on this whole topic, but it is just too good not to bring up. It was clear that for every four or five people attending, there was something to go around. Even some security guards were getting in on the action. I thought that the guy vomiting at the Skynyrd show I saw earlier in the summer was funny, but the security guard trying to hit something way too aggressively while crouched in the middle of a circle of people? Easily topped that sight.
By the end of The Dirty Heads’ set, as the sun was setting into darkness, the haze that had spread over the crowd meant everyone was ready for one thing – for the highest (get it?) billed group to begin their performance. Pre gaming the crowd with 90’s hip hop accompanied with a modern bass, presumably from one of the musicians in the band, it was very clear that people, including myself, were ready to party. I don’t think anyone could have come up with anything better than playing early rap, such as 2Pac’s “California Love”, to get the final leg of the party started. With a great crowd energy and who knows how many musicians, from guitarists, bassists, singers, percussionists, keyboard players, and most importantly the horn section, coming on and off, joining the jam, Slightly Stoopid, the top billed performers of the night, played a great set. With every song’s melodic and rhythmic structure blending in almost feeling like one big jam, the waves of music pouring over the crowd made for a great Thursday night concert on the water.
Based out of Ocean Beach in San Diego, Slightly Stoopid, along with the rest of the groups for that matter, were able to bring the California state of mind to the East Coast. From the use of reggae, to rock, to ska, and anything else in between, the combination of party music and the youthful atmosphere for a nice night. It’s no secret that I want to end up in that area before I die. I talk about it all the time. The seemingly biggest center of industry for hard rock and surf reggae alike and everything in between, the West Coast seems like one of the places to be right now. Gigs like this are instrumental into bringing that California soul out of the one place where it comes from, and the one place that is incidentally, running out of water.
All in all, another great night. I consider myself a pretty lucky guy, but being able to go to events like these, party to great music, and meeting awesome people, is making this summer one I will remember. Personal quips aside, anyone looking for a great time with big time surf reggae music this summer is doing a disservice to themselves by not catching this tour. Seeing big concerts like this is always a pleasure, and with the tour only going until September, the opportunities to catch the one band second only to the progenitors of this whole genre, Sublime, accompanied by other hands down, amazing acts, is going quickly.
Coincidentally, the show they play in Colorado is already completely sold out. One could only imagine why.